War with Iran
Some things always seem to have a whiff of inevitability about them. The sun rises in the
east, Ricky Gervais presents the Golden Globes and Donald Trump tells lots of lies.
However, there is another certainty about Trump that has now inevitably lurched to life –
that he would use an overseas crisis to both deflect from his own miserable shortcomings
and to rev up his “base” in an election year. And now we have just that with the Trump
ordered killing of top Iranian general and strategist, Qasem Soleimani. Tensions with Iran
are now ratcheting up at an alarming pace and the world is holding its breath to see just
how this now plays out given that Trump has now seemingly opted to let the war genie out
of the Middle Eastern bottle.
For a man who has readily decried the prior of forays of previous administrations into the
Middle East, Soleimani’s elimination sure flies in the face of that. Thousands of more
American troops have now headed out to the region and Trump’s hot air rhetoric about
staying out of such future military quagmires has never looked so shallow as it does now.
In 2012, Trump slammed then President Obama by predicting (completely incorrectly) that
he would “go to war with Iran” so as to influence the 2012 Presidential election and that
such a tactic was “pathetic”. Quite Donald, quite.
As we know, Trump is a man under a great deal of pressure. Clearly unfit for the office that
he holds by way of lack of temperament, knowledge and experience, he now has the weight of impeachment bearing down on him too. So, against that backdrop, it should come as no surprise that Trump opted to order the killing of Soleimani by way of a massive, potentially blood-soaked distraction.
However, let’s not overlook the immovable-object meets-irresistible-force tussle going on
inside Trump’s head right now. On the one hand, he wants to be seen to be a continual
“winner” committed to reducing American commitments over-seas, especially the Middle
East, as part of his puerile “America First” philosophy. On the other hand, when yet more
flag-draped coffins are flown back into the States as the body count starts to mount, then
what? Trump and his MAGA masses can’t have it both ways.
The Iranian regime is of course not the most enlightened, that’s for sure. However, it is the
current heir to a Persian tradition of both geo-political machinations and long-term survival
in the face of overwhelming odds. While Trump can barely get past the fixation of his latest
tweet, Tehran plays the long game for sure, being especially adept at serving up cold
retribution. Trump is up to his red tie in a swirling Middle Eastern mire and the whole world
knows it. One can only imagine the laughter currently echoing around the halls of power in
Moscow and Beijing.
As if things weren’t bad enough, Trump can only ever double-down on his original
outrageousness with even more of the same. Hence his threat to potentially take out
Iranian targets both in a “disproportionate fashion” and with an eye on sites of cultural and
historical importance. No American Commander-in-Chief has ever ventured into the realms
of such unhinged belligerency and potential war criminality. It is prohibited by international
law to deliberately target sites of cultural and historical importance and was a favoured
tactic of ISIS. Say no more.
America’s European allies, and even Israel, have been quick to put some distance between
themselves and Trump’s assignation of Soleimani. While the British, French and Germans
have called for all sides to show restraint, even beleaguered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu, a staunch Trump ally and no friend of Iran, has noted this to have been a
unilateral American action and in no way endorsed by Israel. Trump has been a lonely,
angry and isolated figure all of his life. It is tragic that he is now inflicting that same set of
character flaws on American foreign policy too.
As things now stand, the Gulf is a tinder-box primed with dynamite. An Iranian response to
Soleimani’s demise is inevitable and one thing that Tehran has on its side is time. Iran is also an expert at asymmetric warfare – the art of not fighting the enemy through the front door but rather through a side window. So, courtesy of Trump’s abject and very apparent
shortcomings, expect to see any number of anti-American / anti-Western actions in Iraq,
Syria, Afghanistan, Lebanon, the Yemen and the Strait of Hormuz in coming months by
proxy Iranian forces.
And make no mistake, while the US military is exceptionally good and
well resourced, not only is its Commander-in-Chief sorely out of his depth, but the US can’t
cover all bases all of the time. Yet even more blood will be spilled and Donald J. Trump will
be solely and exclusively to blame for yet more American military mis-adventurism in the
Pathetic if it wasn’t so terrifying.